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While only one in 10 Japanese say they support whaling against a slightly higher number who oppose it, nearly 40 percent appear uncommitted, according to a survey released by environmentalist groups this week.

It also shows that more than 60 percent have not eaten whale meat since childhood, if at all.

The survey, jointly conducted via face-to-face interviews by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Greenpeace International between November and December last year, covered 1,185 people aged 18 and above across Japan. The IFAW is a U.S.-based organization promoting and attempting to ensure the just and kind treatment of animals.

According to the survey, only 10 percent of those polled said they fear Japan’s cultural identity would suffer greatly or a fair amount if Japan were to stop whaling, while 35 percent said it would not suffer very much or not at all.

Only 18 percent said they are prepared to face the consequences of continued whaling in the country’s economy or international reputation.

On eating whale meat, 13 percent said they have never eaten it and 48 percent said they have not eaten it since childhood; only 1 percent said they eat it once a month. Nobody responded that they eat whale meat more than once a month.

Eleven percent said they support Japanese whaling, 14 percent said they oppose it, and 39 percent said they neither support nor oppose it.

Naoko Funahashi, an IFAW member in Japan, said the survey was conducted by an independent British polling organization, Market & Opinion Research International, to gauge overall opinions of the Japanese public.

“The survey shows that the Japanese government’s claim that whale meat is a traditional Japanese delicacy is groundless,” Funahashi said.

Kazuo Yamamura, director general of the Institute of Cetacean Research, said: “Unlike rice, whale meat is not eaten so often by the Japanese people.

“However, in wide areas of Japan — including Wakayama and the Kyushu and Tohoku regions — the meat has been considered a traditional cuisine. You cannot ignore local culture by calling it a minority.”

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